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Angels keep yanking New York's chain

They continue their uncanny success against the mighty Yankees, scratching out a 5-4 victory to complete a three-game sweep.

July 13, 2009|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Now, if the Angels can just figure out a way to play the New York Yankees instead of the Boston Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs, they might really be onto something.

The Angels haven't found a way to get past Boston in three postseason tries since 2004, but their strange hold over that other Beast of the East continued Sunday.

John Lackey pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the seventh inning, retiring $52 million worth of Yankees, and Darren Oliver followed with a similar escape act in the eighth, as the Angels held on for a nailbiter of a 5-4 victory in Angel Stadium.

Even without three of their best hitters -- Torii Hunter, Juan Rivera and Vladimir Guerrero -- the Angels completed a three-game sweep of the Yankees heading into the All-Star break and improved to 17-5 in their last 22 games against New York at home.

The Angels are also 32-17 in their last 49 games against the Yankees and 78-63 against them, including playoff series victories in 2002 and 2005, since 1996.

"It's not like they're just another team -- you have to give them a lot more respect," Lackey said. "But I think we play better against better competition. You can't really explain it. It's a weird thing that's happened over the last few years."

Said Derek Jeter, the Yankees' shortstop since 1996: "It's not like they have some mind trick on us. They have a good team."

And a deep team. The Angels erased a 1-0 deficit against Yankees ace CC Sabathia with four runs in the fourth.

There was a single by utility infielder Maicer Izturis, Bobby Abreu's run-scoring double, a walk to reserve outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., a run-scoring double by Howie Kendrick, an RBI groundout by Brandon Wood, who was called up from triple A Friday, and a run-scoring single by seldom-used utility player Robb Quinlan.

Izturis also drove in a key insurance run in the seventh, following Chone Figgins' two-out triple with a single that made it 5-2.

"It shows the depth of our organization," Figgins said. "We have people out, but we still battle."

Lackey led the charge Sunday. After Melky Cabrera's double and Jorge Posada's RBI single to start the seventh, the Yankees loaded the bases on first baseman Kendry Morales' throwing error and Jeter's single.

Up stepped Mark Teixeira, who spurned the Angels' eight-year, $160-million offer to sign an eight-year, $180-million deal with the Yankees. Teixeira, who makes $20 million this season, struck out on a well-placed, full-count curve.

"I can't throw that pitch in the dirt," Lackey said. "It had to be a good curve that was also a strike, because he has a great eye. There's a good chance he won't swing if it's not a strike."

Next came Alex Rodriguez, the highest-paid player in baseball at $32 million. Rodriguez hit a hard grounder to Figgins, who fielded the ball, stepped on third and fired a one-hop throw to Morales, who made the scoop for a double play.

"That was an outstanding pick by Figgy," Lackey said. "And a nice pick by Kendry on the other end."

Trouble found the Angels again in the eighth when reliever Justin Speier walked Hideki Matsui, gave up a single to Robinson Cano, hit Eric Hinske with a pitch and gave up a run-scoring single to Cabrera that made it 5-3.

On came Oliver, the 38-year-old left-hander, who got Posada to hit a sacrifice fly to center and Nick Swisher to hit a low line drive that Oliver snagged near his ankles before throwing to first for an inning-ending double play.

"That ball was there in a hurry," Oliver said. "I just reacted. It happened so quick, I don't know if I caught it or the ball just found my glove."

Lackey (4-4) didn't care. He was just happy to see Oliver hand a lead to closer Brian Fuentes, who retired the side in order in the ninth for his major league-leading 26th save, nailing down a victory that moved the first-place Angels 1 1/2 games ahead of Texas in the AL West.

"I'm just hoping to be able to walk around at his age, so that's pretty impressive," Lackey said of Oliver's double play. "He's been our most consistent guy down there. He's a good guy to hold on to a lead for you."


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